LGBTQ athletes don't hold back in ESPN's awesomely inclusive Body Issue.

Warning: Some images in this article show partial nudity and may be NSFW.

What does an athlete look like?

Tall? Short? Slender? Buff? There's no right or wrong answer, really. They come in various sizes, shapes, colors, sexual orientations, and genders, with all sorts of abilities and disabilities too.

ESPN magazine has been helping challenge misperceptions about athletes and their bodies since its annual Body Issue debuted in 2009. And this year's edition is continuing to push boundaries in exciting ways.  





For the first time, same-sex partners appear together in the much-anticipated issue.

WNBA star Sue Bird and her partner soccer player Megan Rapinoe snapped pics for the publication, and the photos are pretty darn fantastic.


Bird (left) and Rapino (right). Photo by Radka Leitmeritz/ESPN.

"It's pretty amazing to think about [being the first same-sex couple], especially in the times we're in," Rapinoe told the magazine. "Just think of how far we've come, but also the current climate and defiance in the face of that. Not only are we female athletes, but we're dating as well. It's kind of badass."

Rapino (left) and Bird (right). Photo by Radka Leitmeritz/ESPN.

Openly gay Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon is also in this year's issue.

“I couldn't have done this [shoot] while I was in the closet," Rippon said. "I think that, with my experience of coming out, I felt so liberated in so many ways.”

Photo by Mark Seliger/ESPN.

The magazine has also made strides to celebrate different body types and athletes with varied experiences outside of sports.

Tennis player Esther Vergeer, who uses a wheelchair, graced its pages in 2010. MLB player Prince Fielder's appearance in the 2014 issue sparked the body positive hashtag #HuskyTwitter into existence.

Transgender triathlete Chris Mosier continued breaking down barriers in 2016 with his feature in the magazine.

"Now I feel very comfortable in my own skin," Mosier explained. "I think the reason I felt so inspired to do it is that I'm finally at a place where I feel very comfortable with my body. And as a trans person, being in a body that didn't really fit me for 29 years, now I feel very comfortable in my own skin."

Blazing these trails matters.

Young people are watching sports — and reading magazine spreads. And when they can see themselves in the stars on a soccer field, or Olympians in an ice skating rink, it makes big dreams much more achievable.

"I think it's important to do these things first," Rapinoe told ESPN for this year's issue. "It's important for people to come out. Visibility is important."

Check out a preview gallery of the 2018 Body Issue before it hits stands on June 29.

True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.